FACE-TO-FACE WITH THE WOMAN WHO WANTS TO RULE PAKISTAN
Judith Daniels, Managing Editor
A pensive Benazir Bhutto.
A BRIEF REUNION (WITH RIOTS) IN PAKISTAN
Judith Daniels, Managing Editor
Staff writer Anne Fadiman and photographer Mary Ellen Mark were in Pakistan recently for an article on opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, riots broke out, and we heard with growing apprehension reports of mayhem and shootings. Within hours we had a cable from Anne: "Badly teargassed Karachi demonstration. Mary Ellen slightly…Please call my parents. They may read of violence and worry. Downplay to them, say there was some tear gas, but I am fine ...Actually very exciting day, story is worth the gassing. Can definitely make deadline." The next day, Mary Ellen was photographing the arrest of a demonstrator when she suddenly was surrounded by eight policemen who began to pummel her. They took her film and left her badly bruised.
The article, and Mary Ellen Mark's photographs of a land in turmoil, are on page 50. Anne's American Dreamer column will be back next month.
Pakistani Benazir Bhutto greets fellow Radcliffe alumna Anne Fadiman in front of a portrait of Bhutto's father.
Two hours before her arrest, Bhutto hails a throng of fervent partisans.
Her face is tragic, arrogant, aristocratic and slightly ravaged. She lives in a country where many women still wear veils in public. She has spent five of the last nine years in jail or under house arrest--the price of being Pakistan's most outspoken opposition leader. If she succeeds in replacing the current military dictatorship with a democracy, Benazir Bhutto, 33, will be the first modern woman to lead an Islamic nation.
Bhutto is the eldest child of a famous political family that has often been compared, in both power and tragedy, to the Kennedys and the Nehrus. Benazir (the name means "one without equal") was raised in a Karachi mansion by a British nanny, dressed in clothes from Saks and educated abroad. In 1977 her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan's first democratically elected prime minister, was deposed by General Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, who is now president. Two years later, despite appeals from President Jimmy Carter and Pope Paul II, Bhutto was hanged on a disputed murder charge. Benazir spent her subsequent years in prison planning her vengeance against Zia through her own rise to power. As Peter Galbraith, a college friend who is now an Asia expert with the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, puts it, "Benazir got her B.A. from Radcliffe, her M.A. from Oxford and her Ph.D. from Sukkur jail."
Bhutto compares herself to Corazon Aquino, another Western-educated Asian woman who was thrust into politics in a male-dominated nation after the death of a family member. Bhutto hopes, like Aquino, to reach power through a free election. The U.S., fearing that under her socialist rule Pakistan would become a less devoted anti-Soviet ally, has so far withheld its support.
When Bhutto returned to Pakistan after two years of exile last spring, crowds of over half a million danced in the streets. She said to them, "My father told me in our last meeting at Rawalpindi jail that I must sacrifice everything for my country."
She Has the Bearing of a 19th Century Maharani.
Before defying a government ban and setting out to address an illegal rally, Bhutto pauses at her doorway to read aloud a prayer from the Koran.
Staff writer Anne Fadiman who went to Harvard-Radcliffe with Bhutto recalls her classmate's days as a student, and then traces, from Karachi, the events of the tumultuous week that ended with Bhutto's latest arrest.
Cambridge, Mass., 1970. My next-door neighbor in Eliot Hall is named Pinkie Bhutto. She is the daughter of the former Pakistan foreign minister, which impresses no one, since Robert Kennedy's daughter Kathleen lives directly beneath her in a room covered with photographs of her dead father and uncle. Pinkie can't hold a candle to that. Pinkie--her family gave her the nickname because she was an unusually pink baby for a Pakistani--has the elegant bearing of a 19th century maharani (or so I imagine), but she seems very young. When she arrived at Radcliffe at 16, she had never cooked a meal, washed a blouse, walked more than a block without being picked up by a chauffeur, or lifted a ringing telephone. She cried most of her first semester.
By her sophomore year she has adjusted completely. She wears blue jeans to class. She demonstrates against the Vietnam war. She does not smoke, drink, use drugs or eat pork, but she doesn't blink when her friends pass joints around. During spring vacation, Pinkie and I are the only ones in our dorm who haven't gone home, and one night we take the subway to see LoveStory, which was filmed on our campus. Afterward, we both comment snottily that the filmmakers didn't know the first thing about Harvard.
1971. The Pakistan army has slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis. The name of Pakistan--and of Zuffikar Ali Bhutto, who has taken over as president and will soon be elected prime minister--is mud in Cambridge. Pinkie defends her father ferociously. When professor Michael Walzer criticizes Pakistan's military policies in class, she stands up and lectures the lecturer in a voice shaking with anger. Word immediately gets around campus that Pinkie is a riveting public speaker.
1972. Pinkie now lives with my old roommate Yolanda Kodrzycki in a Harvard suite decorated with Pakistani bedspreads. They have no television, stereo or car; their most self-indulgent luxury is an illegal hot plate. Pinkie does not have a lover--her friends understand that for an upper-class Muslim woman that is out of the question--but she hangs out with a boisterous crowd of basketball jocks and teases them in the dining hall about their love lives.
Pinkie has become vehemently nationalistic. She talks of joining her country's foreign service. Once, when she is having dinner with Yolanda's family in Boston, Mrs. Kodrzycki says, "You know, Pinkie, you don't look Pakistani." Pinkie's eyes flash. "But I am Pakistani," she says.
1973. Pinkie graduates cum laude in government seven days before her twentieth birthday, after submitting her thesis, "Muslim Separatism and the Origins of Pakistan," on pink paper.
Benazir’s car is followed, her phones tapped.
En route to the rally, Bhutto gets her first whiff off tear gas. "My skin is tingling," she observes calmly. "Now it's reached my eyes."
Karachi, August 8, 1986. I have been invited to 70 Clifton at 8 p.m. The street name is familiar; it has been listed in my tattered address book for 16 years. The Bhutto mansion is surrounded by a high wall topped with barbed wire. Benazir's house is also the headquarters of the PPP--the Pakistan People's Party--of which she is the leader. The anteroom in which I wait, like the rest of the compound, was obviously once elegant, but now, with its worn office furniture and PPP posters, it looks scruffy and political.
I have been wondering whether I would call her Pinkie or Benazir. When I see her, sitting on a couch, in a blue silk shalwarqamiz (the tunic and pants of the traditional Pakistani woman), looking extremely beautiful and extremely tired, I have absolutely no desire to call her Pinkie.
"Anne!" she says, with a familiar giggle. "Your hair has grown!"
Benazir serves tea in flowered porcelain cups. We talk of our college friends and our families. Benazir's mother, who has lung cancer, is in exile in Paris; her sister, Sanam, is in exile in London; her brother Murtaza is in hiding. Her other brother, Shahnawaz, an anti-Zia terrorist, was poisoned in France last year, Benazir believes by order of the regime. There are pictures of Benazir's dead father and brother everywhere. It looks a lot like Kathleen Kennedy's room at Radcliffe.
August 9. Parked in front of 70 Clifton is a red Toyota pickup truck that belongs to Pakistan's Central Intelligence Department. The officers inside write down my license number, so I write down theirs:146-443. It is common knowledge that Benazir is followed wherever she goes and her phones are tapped.
Since her return to Pakistan last spring, Benazir has frequently been criticized for ignoring the other nine opposition parties that, with the PPP, make up the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy, or MRD. This week Benazir is to hold a historic first summit with the other MRD leaders. They are united in their hatred of President Zia, who has dealt with his political enemies by mass jailings and public floggings. Several of them, however, admit to having been no great admirers of Benazir's father, who was also given to detaining his opponents. Some of the leaders also consider Benazir autocratic and politically inexperienced.
While Benazir prepares for the summit, I am invited to the house of her closest childhood friend (who, like most PPP members, prefers to remain nameless; I will call her A.). A. tells me about Benazir's last meeting with her father, who at that time weighed 95 pounds. "She adored him," says A., crying. "She lived for him. They put a grille between them so she couldn't kiss him goodbye. After he was hanged they brought her his clothes, and she held them to her face because they had his smell on them."
That night Benazir has dinner with A. and a few other old friends of both sexes. For Pakistan, this is a highly liberated social occasion. Benazir has never married--she says her only devotion is to politics, and if she had children she could not expose herself to danger--but she has kept her easy, teasing manner with men.
After our three curries, a special trolley is wheeled in by a manservant. On it are a box of Fibre Bran cereal, a pitcher of cream and a porcelain bowl. Benazir fills the bowl and, crooning baby talk, feeds its contents to the cream-colored Persian cats who were her only companions while she was under house arrest.
It Was 120 Degrees When She Was in Solitary.
Bhutto's supporters have plastered posters of her and her late father on her locked gate.
August 10. MRD's nine other leaders have arrived at 70 Clifton. Benazir meets with them for seven hours at a long table. She is the only woman. During the long harangues in Urdu (her third language, after Sindhi and English), she fiddles wearily with her dupatta, a chiffon head scarf.
After the meeting one of her aides gives her a letter from a supporter that is written in blood.
August 11. The MRD has agreed on a plan. On August 14, the 39th anniversary of Pakistan's independence, the PPP and the other opposition groups will hold joint rallies in Karachi and Lahore. The speakers will demand that the regime announce by September 20 whether free elections will be held this year. (So far, Zia has stated that there will be no elections until 1990.) Benazir is jubilant.
August 12. The regime announces that all public assemblies on Independence Day are banned. After a heated debate the MRD decides to proceed with the rallies anyway. In the morning Benazir plans to fly to Faisalabad, 600 miles northeast of Karachi, and lead a car procession to Lahore. Police violence is expected.
At 8:30 p.m., wearing a gold-and-pearl necklace her father gave her on her last birthday before his imprisonment, Benazir sweeps off nonchalantly to a wedding, where the male and female guests are received in separate rooms.
August 13. Benazir arrives at the Karachi airport in a PPP van and is immediately surrounded by a protective cordon of young male supporters, who shout "Jeaya Bhutto!" (Long live Bhutto). As she is about to board her plane, a police officer serves her with a restraining order that forbids her to travel to Faisalabad and Lahore. Benazir must return to 70 Clifton.
That afternoon I learn that nearly a thousand opposition leaders and workers have been arrested during the night, and that some have been beaten. Benazir calls me in and tells me for the first time about the 11 months she spent in Sukkur jail. "You know," she says, "I'd been in solitary confinement under house arrest, and when I heard I was going to jail, I said hurrah! I'll be with the other political prisoners and we'll smuggle out messages and share PPP news! But I was put in solitary there too. It was 120 degrees and there were sandstorms. I could hear birds dropping dead on the roof. My hands and face split open. I used to say, 'How can I get through the day?' I told myself, my father went through it, and for his sake I must too."
August 14, 12:30 p.m. Two thousand PPP partisans--all male, since Pakistani women rarely attend political protests--wait outside 70 Clifton, screaming Benazir's name.
1:00. Benazir steps from her house and reads a prayer from the family Koran.
1:05. The gate swings open. Two PPP vans with sliding roofs dart out and are engulfed by hysterical supporters who prevent the police from reaching Benazir.
1:15. As photographer Mary Ellen Mark, who is riding in the first van, tells me later, Benazir looks radiant. She takes off her sandals (her toenails have fresh pink polish) and stands barefoot on the backseat so she can wave to the crowds through the sunroof. Muslim custom prohibits them from touching her, but the men hurl themselves against the windows, trying to get as close as they can. They chant, in Urdu, "We'll beat them / We'll die / But we'll bring Benazir!"
1:25. A volley of tear-gas shells (Smith & Wesson CS, imported from the U.S.) is fired by the police. The windows and roof of Benazir's car are quickly closed, so she receives only a mild dose--the first she has ever experienced. Aides hand her a moist towel and give her lime slices to suck. The second van is filled with gas when the sunroof sticks. Inside, the PPP officials sob and cough.
1:30. Benazir mentions to an aide that she is concerned about leaving her cat Sugar, who injured her leg two days ago.
She Shouts to the Crowd in Urdu, 'Zia Must Go!'
Its hood flecked with rose petals thrown by admirers, Bhutto's van plows through the crowds to evade the police.
2:40. Our vans have outfoxed the police, changing routes several times and squeezing through narrow alleys. We are now in Lyari, the poorest section of Karachi, a well-known PPP stronghold. Young men press bloody forearms to the van windows, showing Benazir that they have been beaten by police with bamboo sticks called lathis but are willing to sacrifice themselves.
3:40. We arrive at Chakiwara Chowk, a public square where 10,000 people have gathered. A cloud of smoke rises from a burning bus. The crowd is in a frenzy. When Benazir's head emerges from the roof of her van, there is an immediate hush. "You are all my brothers and sisters," she shouts into a microphone, in Urdu. "Zia must go!"
3:45. The police attack with more tear gas. The people flee chaotically. "Make way for Miss Benazir Bhutto!" shouts one of the PPP aides, and the crowd miraculously parts for our vans.
4:20. While the police tail is temporarily lost, Benazir jumps out of her van and into a Toyota taxi. In the second van, A. veils her face and pretends she is Benazir.
5:00. Benazir has reached 70 Clifton, where a troop of Pakistani journalists awaits her. While she is issuing a statement condemning the police violence, an aide whispers in her ear. "The police have come," says Benazir. "Shall we invite them to join our press conference?" Three uniformed women walk in and hand Benazir an arrest warrant. She is charged with unlawful assembly and sentenced to 30 days in prison. Benazir says, "If this is the price one pays for believing in democracy, to be placed in detention is a matter of pride and honor."
5:30. Before she gets in the police car, Benazir's last words are to her servants. "While I am away," she says, "be sure to take Sugar to the vet. Her left front leg is not yet healed."
In the week following Benazir Bhutto's arrest, 34 Pakistanis were killed in demonstrations and thousands were imprisoned. Bhutto was held in solitary confinement in Landhi Borstal Prison outside Karachi. Although she was due to be released within 30 days, there were reports that she may be charged with sedition, which can carry a life sentence.
Bhutto is finally arrested and taken, smiling, to prison.